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Who Is William Arkin?

A look at the Greenpeace activist cum L.A. Times military affairs columnist who's taking after Gen. Jerry Boykin.

12:00 AM, Oct 23, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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WHO IS WILLIAM ARKIN?

For starters, he is the scribbler who launched the assault on Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin a week ago by providing NBC with tapes of Boykin speaking in churches, and then followed with a Los Angeles Times op-ed that accused the general of being "an intolerant extremist" and a man "who believes in Christian 'jihad'" (Arkin later admitted on my radio program that Boykin never used the term "jihad").

Arkin also wrote that "Boykin has made it clear that he takes his orders not from his Army superiors but from God--which is a worrisome line of command." This statement, like the "jihad" quotation appears to be pure fiction.

But we can't know for sure because Arkin hasn't released the full transcripts of the talks Boykin gave. Arkin promised to do so when I interviewed him, but has since told my producer he won't be providing them because I have misquoted him on my website--another lie from Arkin, to go along with his broken promise of full disclosure.

SO WHO IS ARKIN? That has proven to be a difficult thing to determine, for while Arkin is a prolific writer, his biography is hard to assemble, and maybe intentionally so.

Arkin is a veteran of four years in the Army (he served from 1974 to 1978) and many of his bylines from the past two decades described him as a "military intelligence analyst" during his service (his rank and units are not readily apparent). He received his BS from the University of Maryland.

His employment since leaving the service is easier to trace. Arkin cut his teeth with the lefty Institute for Policy Studies, and went from there to positions with Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Human Rights Watch. He has been a regular columnist for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In recent years he has taken more mainstream work as a senior fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University (he appears to do most of his writing not from the SAIS campus, but from his home in Vermont).

He is also the regular military affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times (what a surprise that the Times employs a Greenpeace alum as its military guru) and a commentator for MSNBC.

ARKIN TOLD ME he got his tip on Boykin's faith talks from a Pentagon source, which suggests that the general has an enemy inside the Pentagon. But if, as most of Boykin's critics have argued, the danger presented by the general's private talks about his faith is their effect on the Islamic world, then why did Arkin rush to publicize these private, little-noticed talks that he believes will hurt the U.S. abroad?

The answer is best found in Arkin's own speech to an audience at the U.S. Naval War College on September 25, 2002. In this lengthy and vitriolic attack on the Bush administration, Arkin admitted to feeling "cynical about the fact that we are going to war to enhance the economic interests of the Enron class," and declared that "the war against terrorism is overstated." Arkin believed, in fact, that the war "is not the core United States national security interest today." He rhetorically asked the audience: "Aren't I just another leftist, self-hating American?" and condemned the administration for taking "enormous liberties with American freedoms."

"The war against terrorism," he said, "if it is a war at all, is not World War II or the Cold War, and it is grasping at empty patriotism to claim that it is." He warned of "our tendency to fall back upon secrecy and government control." And he concluded by warning that our foreign policy "convey[s] the wrong message, which is that we have no values, that we are for sale":

Bush and company call the war on terror open ended. Such a characterization reveals a lack of ability to foresee an outcome and betrays a muddled sense of strategy, strategy that is based on American values and our aesthetic and our way of life. It is for that reason that they need help in seeing what they are doing. They hardly have all the answers.

You can read the lengthy speech here. I was tempted to leave out the link in the hopes that Arkin would claim his quotes were taken out of context, but I'm willing to let the audience judge for itself, a courtesy that Arkin is unwilling to do for Boykin. I continue to suspect that there is much in the Boykin transcripts that would undercut Arkin's story line, and thus that he intends to conceal. The Los Angeles Times, so much ridiculed in recent weeks, doesn't appear in a hurry to produce the full transcripts either.

ARKIN SET OUT to damage an administration he unquestionably loathes, and found an exposed target in Boykin. The usual suspects have gathered round to stone the general on the basis of edited reports compiled by an obvious ideologue, and despite the fact that the his talks were expressions of a deeply-felt faith delivered to audiences of fellow believers. There is no evidence that these talks had caused even a ripple of controversy until Arkin launched his well-orchestrated--and quite manipulative--campaign to bring the general down.

If the assault on General Boykin is successful, it is the beginning of the end for expressions of personal faith by public officials.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.